Monday, January 12, 2009

The Search for the Best Burger!

While the three of us take pride in our gourmet tastes, none of us can deny the pleasure of biting into a juicy, beefy burger piled with all the fixings. With so many burger joints popping up these days, our sights were set on finding the best burgers in NYC and the Washington DC area.
Although we share an idea of what the "perfect burger" entails, each of us has our own distinct palette. In order to give our ratings some context, each of us has created a profile of our specific burger preferences in terms of type of meat, doneness, toppings, and type of bun.


No matter the venue from which my burger is served, I always, if possible, select medium rare. To me, the worst burger crime is to overcook a burger patty (with the small exception of fast food chains, like White Castle, where honestly I want every last germ and raw meat particle cooked out) so a restaurant that can serve me a nice, pink/slighty red, patty is a solid one. When I take that first bite into my medium rare beauty, I want burger juices to dribble out, indicating the burger rested for at least a moment, soaking into my bun but without reducing it to a disgusting mush. I need it cooked enough, however, to hold together while eating.

Buns to me need to be soft and preferably warm and a muted flavor - they are the supporting players and shouldn't be the main attraction. Again, mushy is not the way to go, so something hearty, and for nostalgia's sake, I enjoy a good sesame seed now and then. Preferred toppings range, but I hate mayo and generally put a hearty amount of ketchup and mustard (or BBQ sauce if that's what I've ordered). Onions, raw, are the best, or caramelized, along with melty bleu cheese. A hearty couple of slices of tomato and some lettuce top off the perfect burger to me! Whatever the price or variety, gourmet or not, during this Burger Wars I am simply looking for the tastiest burger. If it turns out it's a fast food one, so be it!


While many burger places are serving up different takes on the classic burger, whether that be ground turkey or kobe beef, I must say that when I think of the perfect burger it has to be made with ground beef. Now that's not to say that I don't enjoy other kinds of burgers. In fact, one of my favorite burgers is the bison burger at Ted's Montana Grill, which I would take over the beef offering any day. But when done right, the quintessential beef burger just hits the spot. It should be pink on the inside (some places offer their burgers blood red, I think that sort of doneness is better served with a steak). The outside of the patty should be slightly charred - I love the caramelized flavors of grilled meat.

The meat and doneness are crucial elements to the perfect burger, but we cannot forget the toppings. I love that burger joints are offering some gourmet twists on the classic ketchup, mustard, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. However my toppings preferences definitely lean towards the minimalist approach - sharp cheddar cheese, juicy tomato (if you have a good tomato you don't need ketchup, caramelized onions, romaine lettuce, and spicy brown mustard). The bun should be hardy enough to stand up to a juicy burger, i prefer a brioche that is slightly toasted. Et voila!


A burger is just about as American as apple pie, and is a favorite for so many from the young to the old. I'm usually more likely to opt for thai or indian food these days, but there is something so comforting about biting into a big fat juicy burger. I will always have a fondness for McDonald's hamburgers because they were a special treat when Ariel and I were kids, but those patties don't compare to a fresh beef burger hot off the grill.

I find that the most satisfying burger isn't a fancy gourmet version with truffle oil and gruyere cheese. What makes a burger so good is the quality of the ingredients. Fresh ground meat hit with some grill seasoning, heirloom tomatoes, romaine lettuce, sharp cheddar cheese, red onion, spicy mustard and a dollop of ketchup on a fresh baked bun (brioche seems to be popular but I have nostalgia for the sweet potato rolls of my childhood). The meat should be grilled so that it has a slighty smoky flavor and a juicy pink center. I can't wait to kick off this search for the best burger - my mouth is already watering!

Next Up
Starting this Saturday, you can expect to read a review of two burger joints we have visited, one from Virginia, and one from New York. At the end of our search we will devote a post to our favorites, and an ultimate winner from each region. So stay tuned...same bat time, same bat channel!


Gastronomer said...

Oooh, excellent idea! Perhaps this list will help you guys out:

Raisin Canes said...

I can tell Ariel wrote the "next up" paragraph